Former President Mohamed Nasheed has contested the credibility of police and military officers as state witnesses in a terrorism trial over the military’s detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012.
Judge Abdulla’s arrest sparked 22 consecutive nights of violent anti-government demonstrations that culminated in a police and military mutiny on the morning of February 7, 2012, forcing President Nasheed to resign in what he subsequently called a “coup d’etat.”
The opposition leader, who has denied ordering the arrest of Judge Abdulla, contended the role of the police and military officers in his February 2012 ouster and Judge Abdulla’s arrest raised questions over their credibility.
Chief Inspectors of Police Ahmed Shakir and Mohamed Jamsheed testified at a third hearing last night, and claimed Nasheed —in a meeting with senior police officers on January 18— had said he would not allow Judge Abdulla within 100 feet of the courthouse.
The Criminal Court blocked Nasheed’s lawyers’ attempts to determine credibility of witnesses, at times ordering lawyers to focus on the content of the statement rather than the identity of the witness or the level of their involvement in the events of February 7.
Presiding Judge Abdulla Didi said judges would decide how much weight each witnesses’ statement would carry.
The three judge panel—Didi, Abdul Bari Yoosuf and Sujau Usman—also refused to revise its ruling to keep Nasheed in police custody until the end of the trial.
Shakir told the court Nasheed in the January 2012 meeting had said Judge Abdulla was destroying the criminal justice system, and undermining the judicial watchdog Judicial Services Commission (JSC) by disobeying its orders, and would bar him from within 100 meters of the courthouse.
A visibly nervous Jamsheed, however, first said he had also heard Nasheed say he would order the arrest of Judge Abdulla at the meeting with police officers.
When Nasheed’s lawyers pointed out the January 18 meeting had taken place after the judge’s arrest, Jamsheed said he had heard Nasheed say the judge must be isolated.
Lawyer Abdulla Shaairu then questioned Jamsheed on his whereabouts on February 7, whether he had been active inside or outside the police head quarters, and when he had received a promotion from Inspector to Chief Inspector.
When state prosecutors objected to the questions, Shaairu said the defence must determine if witnesses had any animosity towards Nasheed, given their role in the events leading up to his resignation.
Judge Yoosuf then directly asked Jamsheed whether he harboured any animosity towards Nasheed, and defence lawyers immediately objected to the bench’s questions, saying judges were “putting words in the witnesses’ mouths.”
Judge Didi dismissed the defence’s claim, saying judges regularly posed questions to witnesses.
Lawyer Ibrahim Riffath appealed to judges to release Nasheed from detention, stating the High Court had rejected the former president’s appeal of the Criminal Court’s decision to deny him bail.
Despite lawyer’s assurances to the contrary, the Criminal Court said they feared Nasheed may abscond from trial and rejected the request.
Nasheed was denied legal representation during his first hearing. He was arrested on February 22, and his trial under new charges of ‘terrorism’ began the next day.
Speaking to the press outside, lawyer Hisaan Hussain said the High Court threw the appeal out, claiming the Criminal Court’s detention ruling was in fact a court summons.
In a statement before the trial began, the lawyers expressed concern over inadequate time to prepare their case. In a March 2 hearing, the legal team requested 30 days to mount a credible defence, but judges gave them one day.
The Criminal Court, however, has argued Nasheed’s team has had case documents for three years, as the new terrorism charges are based on the same documents as a previous arbitrary detention charge, now withdrawn.
The statement also noted the judges’ refusal to withdraw from the bench on the March 2 hearing, despite their involvement on the scene during Judge Abdulla’s arrest and involvement as witnesses during the police and Human Rights Commission investigation.
The next hearing is to be held at 9pm tonight.
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